The stage was a town in north Chhattisgarh. The occasion was Assembly polls in a state that sends merely 11 MPs to the Lok Sabha. But the message and ambition were unmistakably Delhi.
The Red Fort that Chhattisgarh Chief Minister Raman Singh had got built as the stage for his Vikas Yatras final rally here on Saturday generated more talk among the people present than the leaders on it.
Just in case the message was lost,or that anybody missed that seated on this Red Fort stage was the BJPs top prime ministerial contender,Narendra Modi,party chief Rajnath Singh even spelt it out: This time we have only constructed the Red Fort here,next time our prime minister will address from the Red Fort.
In his speech,Modi praised his Chhattisgarh counterpart for charting an independent path,while attacking Delhi. Let Delhi create hurdles in Chhattisgarhs way,Raman Singh has never begged or surrendered to Delhi, he said. Never mind that Chhattisgarh and the Centre share a more than cordial relationship.
Modi repeatedly praised the Chhattisgarh growth model and,in what would have struck many people in this region that is among its most underdeveloped,said that all sections in the state had developed.
Launching a personal attack on PM Manmohan Singh,Modi said: There is a Singh in Chhattisgarh,there is another Singh in Delhi. But this Singh is a doctor of humans,the Singh of Delhi is a doctor of rupaiya (Indian currency). Here people are happy and healthy,rupaiya is admitted in hospital today.
Modi also praised Raman Singhs free rice scheme,while the latter listed the other freebies provided by him. At least one of them failed to impress Saturday. The free cycles that were given to schoolgirls at the Ambikapur rally were almost all rusted. Quipped a parent: Jab sarkaar mein hi jang laga hai,to cycle kya karegi (When the government itself is rusted,why complain about a cycle)?